The Dreamhouse That Got Away

barbie-dream-house_picture.jpgIf blogging were alive and well in the early 1980s, then this would have been the post you would have seen from my 10 year old self…
I don’t ask for much from my parents. Sure they pay for tennis lessons and singing lessons and dance lessons, but other than that, I don’t really get that many gifts. My mom told me a long time ago not to expect gifts during the holidays because in our family, ever day is a holiday. That meant that whenever we went to the mall, I’d manage to bring home an outfit from Macy’s or a purse or a pair of shoes. But when it came to toys, well that was a whole other story.
Let’s just set the record straight. While my parents are amazing and gave me everything I ever wanted, what they did not give me was the Barbie Dreamhouse. I can still remember begging my mom to buy me a furnished Barbie Dreamhouse for Chanukah. No matter how loud I whined, my mom refused to spend $199 for a dollhouse she knew I’d play with for a few months and then cast aside like Tweety, my lonely parakeet. I even was willing to give up the furnished version with the unfurnished model and was willing to pay for the furniture on a layaway plan. That suggestion was met with opposition too.
While my friends proudly showed off their furnished dreamhouses, I instead received a Barbie remote controlled Corvette along with a trailer. And I played with both items a total of one month. (I guess my mom was on to something). By the time I hit 13, I grew out of my Barbie fixation and focused my attention on the finer things in life – designer handbags. And you know what? Every time I asked for a bag, my mom never did turn me down. Who needs a dreamhouse when you can have Dooney and Bourke?

Black Friday Kids Pick: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey-Kong-Country-Returns.jpgOkay parents. We know you have your list ready to go for holiday gift giving season and we want to make sure you have one important Wii Game on your kids’ radar. Get ready, because Donkey Kong Country Returns was just released on November 19 and so far, the verdict in our house has been overwhelmingly positive. My husband, who was a huge Donkey Kong fan from back in the day (that would be the early 80’s), says the game experience for him was incredible. In fact, he was thisclose to admitting that it was better than when he first started playing the game at 10 years old.
And my eight year old? Well if this is any indication, he’s been playing it for hours ever since it arrived. Plus, he had a sleepover last night and this morning, the two kids were playing together.
The cool thing about Donkey Kong Country Returns is that you play in teams and help each other to make it through the jungle. Plus, the game even has an option where you can watch Kong navigate the jungle first so that you can see the path he takes to earn the most points and then you can go back and try it yourself. And you know what that means? It’s even easy for someone like me to play.
So there you have it folks. Donkey Kong Country – put that on your holiday wish list and if you don’t want to fight the crowds on Black Friday, simply order Donkey Kong Country Returns on Amazon. Let your fingers do the clicking and you won’t get stressed out by the crowds!

Take Back the Kitchen with Alma Schneider

P1050642.jpgThanksgiving is just around the corner which means not much time for cooking really involved dinners before the big day. Try this easy and delicious Spanish tapas favorite. Don’t forget to soak up the sauce with bread!
Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp with garlic)Tapas for 4 people
One cup raw medium shrimp
3 TBS olive oil
3 cloves very thinly sliced garlic
pinch of paprika
salt to taste
In a small frying pan, heat up the oil and add the sliced garlic. When the garlic starts turning a golden color, add the salt and the shrimp. Stir a bit. When the shrimp turns fully pink, remove from the fire and sprinkle with the paprika.
Serve in small bowls with bread.
For more from Alma Schneider, visit her at Take Back the Kitchen!

Organized Thanksgiving Entertainment

j0409578.jpgWith Thanksgiving only a few days away, let’s get you organized with some added ingredients that will spice up your Thanksgiving family time. These ideas will get your entire family sharing around your Thanksgiving dinner table by playing some simple games and activities.
To start, come up with several trivia questions that both young and old can answer. For example, find trivia questions about the first Thanksgiving including historical facts or traditions that have been passed down through our country. A few trivia questions that come to mind are, “Which President issued the first Thanksgiving Day proclamation?” or “What food was served at the first Thanksgiving feast?” or facts pertaining to the writings in the first Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863. For most kids, this will be an area where they will probably dominate and ultimately win since they have recently learned facts concerning Thanksgiving in the classroom.
Creating other ways to get the entire family sharing doesn’t always have to be about Thanksgiving. Tell family stories about your most embarrassing moment or your high and low for the year.
At our home when it comes to eating Thanksgiving dinner, everyone sits in random spots. I have taken advantage of this in recent years and have placed a small gift card under one of the many chairs seated around the table. Towards the end of the meal, I ask everyone to look under his or her chair. Surprise! Someone receives a small gift.
One of my favorite memories during the holidays is when we get out our old 8mm film to watch (our silent but colored movies). My older brother often comically narrates the silent movement on each person’s lips and adlibs what the other person might be saying. We never really know for sure what is being said in our home movies. So all my memories of what is actually going on are probably skewed. However, it has been fun not only to see and remember the stories of when I was younger, but to laugh at all the hilarious stories my brother adlibbed…. whether they are true or not.
This Thanksgiving, try serving up some great fun by digging out your home videos and cooking up some interesting questions around your Thanksgiving table.
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IMG_3957_retouched.jpgLorraine Brock is a professional organizer, family coach, speaker, and founder and owner of “Get Organized!” “Get Organized!” is a professional organizing company in the Dallas, Texas area. “Get Organized!” specializes in organizing and de-cluttering homes as well as implementing systems in the home for better family management.
A popular media guest, Lorraine has appeared on Dallas’ two top morning television shows: Good Morning Texas and Good Day Fox, and has been featured on various radio outlets. She has been hallmarked in many local, regional, and national print and online magazines, such as the Dallas Morning News, The North Texas Kids Magazine,, and Daily Candy Kids. To get more helpful advice from Lorraine, visit her blog Get Organized!

Travel Sanity Savers

There’s something to be said about spending the holidays close to home but if you happen to be traveling with kids in tow, we’ve got a few great suggestions on what to pack so that your kids are entertained and your back is not strained when you’re attempting to get through airport security.
If you’re a new parent, all I can say is I’ve been there and feel your pain. What with the umbrella stroller, the car seat, the cheerios, formula, diapers and toys, it can truly be a nightmare navigating through an airport with a toddler or newborn. Two of our picks that’ll make traveling easier are Diaper Buds and Pish Posh Mommy – two products created by moms for moms!
diaperbuds.jpgDiaper Buds: I recently heard a story of a mom who was forced to check her carry on bag because it was stuffed with diapers and she then had to bring her baby on board without a single diaper to change her! With Diaper Buds you can fit one in your pocket! The diapers are shrink wrapped which means you can bring at least 4-5 diapers with you and they hardly take up any room in your bag!
pishposh-mommy-diaper-clutch-300x199.jpgPish Posh Mommy: There is nothing more frustrating than putting your diaper bag through the security check and they wind up confiscating your diaper cream, formula and anything else that’s not less than the 4 oz. minimum. With Pish Posh Mommy, you can actually place all your must have diaper and feeding items into a convenient carryall or a fashionable bag that you can even place inside a handbag or carryon – which means no diaper bag required!!!
My advice for this one is Less is More! My three top picks for kids:
iPod Touch – Download their favorite apps, music, TV shows and videos and they’ll be entertained for hours. My kids’ favorite free games include Pocket God and The Moron Test (ugh) which incidentally is a game that tests your knowledge.
nintendo-dsi-xl-e3.jpgNintendo Dsi XL – If you’re traveling on a long trip, this is a must-have item. It comes with built in games from Brain Age to Flip Notes, voice recorder and camera. My daughter’s favorite game for the holidays is Art Academy and Style Savvy. And my son’s – anything with the words Mario in the title. And my fave – 100 classic books that you can read right in the palm of your hand!!!
Playing Cards – Go old school, bring a deck of cards and play everything from Spit, to War to five card stud – well, maybe not the poker game, but there’s plenty of great card games that’ll keep your kids entertained for hours.

Jennifer Grey is the Ultimate Role Mommy

Screen shot 2010-11-24 at 8.51.42 AM.pngI know I’ve been a bit fanatical this season with my love of “Dancing with the Stars.” To be perfectly honest, in past seasons, I really wasn’t that interested in the show. That is, until I found out that one of my favorite film stars was competing. I first fell in love with Jennifer Grey when she played Baby in “Dirty Dancing.” I was a junior in high school and remember seeing it the first time with my friend Julie who I now see from time to time on Facebook but have not actually connected with her IRL in more than two decades (but that’s a whole different story).
Since that nostalgic moment in that dilapidated theater that shut down a few years after we saw the film, I think I’ve seen “Dirty Dancing” at least 50 times. I can recite the lines. I remember vividly the scene when Baby dances up the steps or when Johnny raises her over his head while they’re in the lake. I remember when I bought the soundtrack and played those songs over and over again on my walkman (yes, walkman). I remember buying denim shorts. And I remember getting Baby’s adorable haircut.
So imagine my thrill to find out that Baby was back! And she looked absolutely gorgeous. You would never guess that Jennifer Grey is now 50 years old. It’s as if she hasn’t aged a day since the film. But now, more than two decades later, she’s now a wife and mother who put her own career on hold while battling a host of back problems (she was in a serious car accident with Matthew Broderick prior to the release of “Dirty Dancing” and never quite recovered from it). Thankfully, Jennifer finally decided to re-ignite her passion for dancing and made her fans fall in love with her all over again.
During the competition, her entire family (including famous Broadway dad Joel Grey) was front and center cheering her on. And during the finale, her friends Jamie Lee Curtis and Melanie Griffith could be seen hooting and hollering too.
It was so great to see how Jennifer embraced her “Dirty Dancing” fan base. While I would have loved to have seen her re-create “I’ve Had the Time Of My Life,” I did enjoy the homage to the film with “Do You Love Me?” She wore a 1950’s inspired dress while carrying a watermelon (a throwback to the film) and then whipped off the dress and wore a sparkly fuschia number that lit up as she danced her heart out on stage and on top of the judges desk.
The next evening during the finals, we learned that Jennifer had ruptured a disc in her back and despite the pain, she managed to pull two more performances out of the hat and won that mirror ball trophy.
Today, as I sat watching Jennifer and the finalists on “Good Morning America” wearing a “Dirty Dancing” inspired dress, all I can say is kudos to this inspiring wife, mother and daughter. It was truly a thrill to watch her perform and every time she stepped out on that stage, she brought me back to the time when I first watched her fly into Patrick Swayze’s arms. No matter how old she gets, Jennifer Grey will always hold a special place in the hearts of women like me. And as we get ready to take a few days off from our incredibly hectic lives, I’m thinking it’s time to kick back and watch one of the best feel good dance films of all time.
Congratulations Jennifer Grey – you are the ultimate Role Mommy! And for the sentimental moms out there, take a look at this blast from the past!

Customizable Gifts for the Holidays

With days to spare before the holiday shopping season kicks into full gear, we’re sure you’re wracking your brain trying to decide how to get the perfect gift for the kid who has everything. Well, we’ve found three ways to satisfy any hard to please kid with these customizable gift options!

2010-11-09_12-54-55_765.jpgFill-R-Up – Located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Fill-R-Up is a one of a kind store dedicated to all things you. Which means you can walk in and order a monogrammed gift basket or tote bag and fill it up with items any mom, dad, friend or new parent will love. The baby gifts are absolutely precious. And the “silly bandz” holder is pure genius. If you don’t live in the city but would like to order a gift from the shop, simply visit Fill-R-Up and start customizing!
girltee.jpgSwitchittz T-Shirts Now available online and at the W Hotel, these cool long and short sleeve tees will give your child the chance to change the look of their shirt with different 3D patches. Choose from a variety of scenes – space, jungle safari, princess and much more! Each shirt comes with one Switchittz patch and then you can purchase more for each tee. Just think – you don’t have to buy more shirts and your child can have a new look in seconds!
bttf-nike-dunk-custom-sneakers-010.jpgCustomizable Kicks at Nike Town or at – I can’t tell you how many compliments my daughter has received ever since she designed her own Converse sneakers online. While Converse offers fashionable sneaker options, head on over to Nike Town in New York City to create your own sneakers that you can wear for sports related activities.

Twitter Tuesday’s with “The Talk”

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(Los Angeles Parenting Bloggers meet the ladies of “The Talk”/Photo Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS).

I am so psyched about this Tuesday’s Tweet Up topic on “The Talk.” Want to know why? Simple! It’s a time for all of us to rant about “what stresses you out about the holidays?” Of course, you’re welcome to share some of your own solutions during the show. But, sometimes when things are stressing you out you just want to rant to your girlfriends and it makes you feel better (or at least it works for me).
Guests on Tuesday’s edition of “The Talk” will offer tips on how to create a stress-free Thanksgiving dinner (don’t cook) and Martha Beck will be on hand offering life changing advice on how to de-stress the holidays.
Joining us for “Tweet Up Tuesday” will be “The Talk’s” “Mom on the street” Marissa Jaret Winokur who will be the show’s official “Mom on the tweet.” Marissa will be on hand throughout the show tweeting with viewers about all those things we’re annoyed about right now with all this holiday stresss!
You can join in on Facebook or Twitter and if you are itching to get in on the conversation and are like, okay, how do I start? Watch the show at 2pm ET (if you’re in another time zone, watch it when it’s on the air in your area), go to The Talk and they’ll show you how you can join in or if you’re a Twitter expert, you can join us on and enter #TheTalk. Looking forward to spending the hour bonding over what’s bothering us! Make sure you follow @rolemommy @marissajwinokur and @marissatalks and you’ll be good to go!

Courtney Cox, Cougars and Clothes…Oh My!

courtney.jpegI don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved Courtney Cox. I remember the first time I saw her in a Bruce Springsteen music video and then I spent my 20’s and 30’s watching her on “Friends.” Well now I’ve come to find that Courtney and I have two things in common – we’re both cougars (my husband is a month younger than me) and we both love Old Navy. It’s almost as if we’re BFF’s. Okay – not really but I did stand thisclose to her once in L.A. when I attended the premiere party for a short film she directed and all I kept thinking was, ‘wow, it would be so cool to hang out with Courtney and her friends.’
Courtney recently hosted a special event at PINZ in Los Angeles sponsored by Old Navy Rock + EBowl in Los Angeles to benefit EBMRF, an organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness to EB, a rare genetic skin disorder that affects as many as 100,000 individuals nationwide. Old Navy set up a private gift shop for families to do some early holiday shopping and the stars went to town – Old Navy puffer vests, sparkly tutus, fuzzy animal slippers, pajama pants, scarves and techno hoodies (hoodies with ipod plugs) were some of the biggest hits of the day!
skeet.jpgAdditional celebrities who joined in on the fun included James Marsden, Kaley Cuoco, Rashida Jones, Ashley Scott, Skeet Ulrich, Kaley Cuoco, Allison Janney, Eric Hedlund, and many more.
Meanwhile, back on the other side of the country, yours truly got to head to Old Navy with our second complimentary gift card and this time, while I thought I was going to be treating myself to some goodies, my daughter managed to finagle an entire winter wardrobe out of me – complete with down hooded jacket, long sleeve scratch and sniff t-shirts and several pairs of denim jeans including one pair of jeggings.
IMG_0814.jpgI did receive a pair of really cute cargo pants from Old Navy that are quite comfy but here’s hoping that next time around, I’ll be able to head to the women’s section and spend an hour shopping for me! First item on my wish list – a coat! Will let you know next month if I’m able to finally make it over to that section of the store.
To check out the latest fashion finds and deals from Old Navy, visit their website. Photos courtesy of Old Navy and Getty Images.
Disclosure: I received a $100 gift card from Old Navy in order to sample products from the store. The opinions expressed in this post are strictly my own.

Ultra Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

Guest post by Project You Managing Editor, Jeanne Muchnick
I love jewelry — and I love diamonds — but truth be told, I’m often intimidated walking into jewelry stores because I know they are trying to “sell” me and I honestly don’t have a lot of money to spend. Which is why I was so impressed with Ultra Diamonds in the Red Apple Court section of New York’s Woodbury Commons. You can go in, look, touch, and chat with the sales rep without feeling pressured. Plus, the prices are incredibly fair.
In fact, how does interest free financing for 18 months with no money down and no minimum purchase sound? Not to sound like a sales person, but honestly, the deals are amazing for recession-strapped consumers like myself. (Another plug: if you open an account with the store today, you get a $50 gift card.)
For me, who has a daughter about to turn 16 and another one 18, I was “in love” with the gorgeous diamond earrings regularly priced at $299 that were $189 today. I also contemplated the “previously owned” Rolex watches. (Today: any “reasonable” offer accepted!)
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But what really caught my eye were the mii beads that you can mix and match to create a “story.” An ideal great gift for a babysitter, a girlfriend, even a prized teacher. Prices for beads start at $19.99 but today (though Monday for mom bloggers reading this post), if you buy five beads, you get the bracelet for free). I also liked the Park Avenue collection of cubic zirconium, especially the heart key necklace and the angel necklace.
Honestly? I could go on and on about what I loved….I think “loving gold and diamonds” is in a woman’s DNA. Apparently the company, in business close to 20 years, chose the word “Ultra” from the Latin meaning “nothing but the best” to let shoppers know this is a place they can find top quality, fashion-forward merchandise whatever their budgets might be.
Visit the Ultra Diamonds website to order online or find a store location near you!